With demo done, Reno Public Market eyes May for full-scale construction

RENO, Nev. — Rick Casazza often glances at the old photo hanging in his office that shows his grandfather, brother and cousin standing alongside a large earthmover. Taken in the early 1960s, the photo depicts the northeast corners of Plumb Lane and Virginia Street prior to the construction of the Shoppers Square retail center.

Casazza was just five years old when that memorable photo was taken. In the many decades since, Shoppers Square remained the Casazza family's wholly owned retail venture. Long before it became a premier retail destination, the land was the Cassaza family ranch.

Rick Casazza can't help but wonder what his father and grandfather would think about the changes underway at Shoppers Square that will bring the aged 1960s retail center into the 21st century.

Construction crews have demolished most of the two-story mall addition that was erected in front of the original Shoppers Square to make room for what will become Reno Public Market. The two-story mall was constructed in the 1970s, and now that it's gone the center's original facade is once again exposed.

Tearing down the two-story mall brings back some faded memories, Casazza says.

“The storefronts of Skaggs and Mayfair have been hidden behind that two-story (front),” he says. “You look at it and go, ‘Wow! I remember that!' It's really cool. It's retro — there's some colored brick there. And as we tore down the mall, I can see paint on the walls that brings back memories of tenants that were there.

“It is really gratifying to say this project is still relevant from 1962 to now,” Casazza adds. “It's relevant in a different way — it's coming back. It has always been my family's desire and goal to keep the project current with the times. This project is going to be something Reno has never seen, and it's going to have so much energy with food, entertainment, art and co-working bringing people together.”

Once the project is complete, the northeast corners of Plumb Lane and Virginia Street in Reno will look a lot different.

Casazza partnered with longtime real estate redeveloper Doug Wiele of Foothill Partners to re-imagine the new chapter of Shoppers Square. The duo spent several years planning the look, feel and tenant mix for Reno Public Market, which will include restaurants, an art collective and co-working space.

“It's that mix of uses that we think makes this project,” Wiele says. “Those pieces are coming together.”

FiftyFifty Brewing of Truckee will be the anchor restaurateur at Reno Public Market and already has signed a lease.

The marketplace features about 16,000 square feet of space on the ground floor and totals about 25,000 square feet with mezzanine and back-of-house space. Wiele expects to pull permits to begin construction of Reno Public Market in May.

Although demolition of the old two-story mall is complete, it wasn't without myriad challenges for the developers and construction crews, who spent many months identifying and detaching live utilities such as power, water and sewer that were part of the now-removed structure.

“It's one thing to tear an entire building down — you just disconnect everything,” Wiele says. “It's more complicated when you are taking portions of a building down and digging into buildings to take pieces of them down.”

A schematic of Reno Public Market, as designed by Reno-based Frame Architecture.

Cold Stone Creamery, CVS Pharmacy and the United States Postal Service facility remain open during construction. However, Cold Stone, along with longtime Shoppers Square tenant Port of Subs, will move into a new 6,700-square-foot standalone retail building near Plumb Lane.

CVS, meanwhile, will move into renovated space that once housed Sheplers Western Wear. CVS is taking 51,200 square feet, which leaves some retail space available in the second floor above the drugstore — the last section of the old two-story mall still standing.

Aspen Earthworks is doing parking lot improvements and underground utility work, while Truckee Meadows Construction of Sparks handled the demolition work and will build the new standalone retail center.

Wiele and Casazza have worked through many economic downturns over the years, including the Great Recession, 9/11, the dotcom bust, and the S&L crisis of the 1980s and '90s. They are committed to working on the project despite the cloudy economic outlook for Northern Nevada and the rest of the nation due to the ongoing COVIF-19 pandemic.

“We are fortunate to be allowed to work during this crisis we are all experiencing with the coronavirus,” Wiele says. “We needed to keep working — we had buildings that were unstable as we disconnected them and we needed to stabilize those. “We are blessed with a funding group that's happy to keep going, and we have a contractor (Truckee Meadows Construction) that is committed to best business practices and is taking extra precautions.

"We feel blessed, and it's not easy to say when times are so hard. We are committed to the belief that we will come through this and will be here for this community when this is all over.”


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